Likening religious schools to segregation–a racist system that forced blacks to attend different schools and use different facilities than whites in the American South–President Barack Obama told a town hall meeting for youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Monday that there should not be Catholic and Protestant schools because such schools cause division.
“Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity–symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others–these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it,” said Obama. “If towns remain divided–if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs–if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.
“And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union,” said Obama. “A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.